As a 5-year-old in 1994, Drew Angus first heard Harry Connick Jr.’s “When My Heart Finds Christmas.”
The iconic album — and the longstanding tradition of family Christmas Eve parties in the Anguses’ Westport home — were important parts of his childhood.
Christmas is his favorite season. Christmas songs play a huge role. And — now that Angus is a professional musician — timeless music like Connick’s inspires him artistically.
For years, the 2007 Staples High School graduate wanted to provide others with the joy he felt. Now — with the release of “A Snow Globe Christmas” — he’s done exactly that.
A busy touring schedule and other commitments kept him out of the studio in past summers. That’s when holiday albums are recorded. Just as Santa’s elves work all year round, it takes months of recording, art, marketing, distribution and promotion to produce something that magically appears right now.
But this August — when the pandemic wiped out Angus’ gigs — he had the perfect opportunity to bring some cheer, via holiday tunes.
Work began in August. He and Black Rock Sound producer Mikhail Pivovarov picked songs, and started arranging.
“With Christmas music, you don’t reinvent the wheel,” Angus says. “You take songs that everyone knows, and make them your own.”
His 5-track EP includes chestnuts like “The Christmas Song” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” along with Elton John’s rocking “Step Into Christmas.”
It was also important to Angus that he include new music. So — drawing on his love of Connick, Michael Bublé, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole — he wrote 2 original tracks.
One — “Snow Globe” — was composed with his friend Nicholas Wells, via Zoom. It’s a hopeful reminder to take a step back, and find some calm amid the holiday season mayhem.
“The season will look a little different this year,” Angus says. “Thanksgiving may be more quiet. The Christmas Eve party won’t be filled with the usual gathering of families.”
Still, he notes, “the cheer will never be lost. I hope ‘A Snow Globe Christmas’ brings families a little joy this holiday season — and for many years to come.”
Just as Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby — and of course Harry Connick Jr. — have done for years, for Drew Angus.
(Click here to hear “A Snow Globe Christmas” on your favorite platform.)
Phase 2 of Connecticut’s reopening begins next Wednesday (June 17). It’s a big day for Governor Ned Lamont. And at 9 a.m., he shares it with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.
He’s the special guest and speaker for their virtual “Morning Network” meeting. The event is free — and open to all.
Lamont will give an update on the pandemic, discuss the next phase in reopening, offer his views on the future, and answer questions. They may be submitted ahead of time by email, or through the chat function during the event.
Also virtual — and also featuring big names — is the Westport Library’s next Trefz Newsmakers series.
CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent (and 1988 Staples High School graduate) Jeff Pegues interviews billionaire businessman, hedge fund manager, major Democratic Party donor, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner (and Westport resident) Marc Lasry.
They’ll talk about Lasry’s career, how he gives back, his advice for entrepreneurs, and COVID-19’s effect on business and the sports world.
Driving around Westport and Weston, Aarti Khosla has been touched by the many yard signs and balloons congratulating high school and middle school graduates. She’s been impressed by the banners on Main Street, not far from Le Rouge — her “aartisan” chocolate shop.
But as she thought about all that’s going on America today, she was inspired to act on the words that she fervently believes in: “Spread love.” And what better place to spread love than nearby Bridgeport?
She called the superintendent of schools, and offered to celebrate their graduates with “Give a Little Love” hearts. Here’s her message to “06880” readers:
“Next week, 1115 Bridgeport students will graduate from high school. This is an enormous accomplishment. We recognize the obstacles they overcame to achieve success.
“Le Rouge asks for your support in celebrating these graduates. We will make chocolate hearts to celebrate every Bridgeport high school senior. If each Westport graduating senior — or a relative or friend, or perfect stranger — agrees to celebrate 3 Bridgeport students with a $25 sponsorship, we can give our love to the entire community via chocolate hearts.
“We have until next Monday to make this a reality. Click here to help.”
Aarti Khosla’s wonderful chocolates
Some youngsters returned to their elementary schools for the first time since March today. It was also their last time at “their” school.
“Moving up” car parades were held for 5th graders around town. This was the scene captured by Kings Highway Elementary School parent Tricia Lau-Lewis.
All 5 kids went to KHS. The youngest will be in 5th grade there next year.
Meanwhile, after the Saugatuck El parade, Carolyn Doan’s family headed to Sunny Daes. They met some Greens Farms Elementary folks there (below).
MoCA Westport shut down in mid-March. But their beautiful Steinway grand piano did not sit idle.
As part of their pandemic programming, they invited accomplished local pianists to perform. They filmed them, and shared the virtual concerts free on their YouTube page.
Pianists are invited to play music of their choice. Some — like Chris Coogan — are inspired by MoCA’s current Helmut Lang exhibition. He wrote and performed an original piece.
This week’s performance features two Staples students. Patrick Looby and Lucas Lieberman are rising seniors. They played together in November, at Carnegie Hall.
For MoCA they play Aram Khachaturian’s lively waltz “Masquerade.” Enjoy!
More music news! Drew Angus — the 2007 Staples High School grad profiled recently on “06880” as an example of a gig worker navigating his way through the coronavirus crisis — performs via Zoom this Friday (June 12, 12 noon).
It’s a Westport Senior Center production — but it’s open to everyone who wants to hear the work of this talented young singer/songwriter.
Click here for the Zoom link (meeting ID: 883 1489 6846; password: 2DHJSV). It’s also available on Facebook (click here, or search for Toquet Hall).
Here’s a sight you don’t see every day: Yesterday, a helicopter apparently headed for a landing at Old Mill Beach or Sherwood Island State Park.
If you know the back story, click “Comment” below.
And finally … this is a poignant song at any time. Particularly at graduation. And really particularly this year.
Here’s to the Class of 2020. You haven’t seen each other for a while. But you’ve come a long way from where you began. I hope you see each other for a long time, soon.
Owner Eric Sierra already had a covered patio, off Riverside Avenue on the bank of the Saugatuck River. Now he’s extended it, making sure tables are 6 feet apart. They’ll serve a full lunch and dinner menu.
During the pandemic, Rive Bistro has been open weekends for curbside pickup only. Starting today, they’ll offer curbside dinners every day, from 4 to 8 p.m. When outdoor dining begins next week, curbside takeout will continue to be available too.
Yesterday at 10 a.m., town officials began handing out face masks at Bedford Middle School.
It was a great idea. It took Eve Potts an hour to get from Long Lots to Bedford — but she reports that the distribution was well organized. And, she says, “we now have a nice supply of masks.” Here was part of the line, spilling out to North Avenue, when distribution began.
Two weeks ago on “06880,” Drew Angus shared his life as a gig worker in a pandemic. The 2007 Staples High School graduate is a musician. Accessing funds through the CARES Act and PPP was a different tune than for salary and wage workers.
Today he brings us up to date on his efforts. Drew says: “My stimulus check finally came through. So did my SBA loan advance of $1,000, which is technically a grant. No word yet on the loan itself. They are processing applications as quickly as possible. The system is starting to work — slowly.
“On Friday the Department of Labor finally put the PUA application for gig worker unemployment up on their site.”
Meanwhile, Drew continues to work on his music. Here’s his latest project. It’s definitely worth checking out — and forwarding far and wide.
I’m not sure why officials have decided that a good way to honor medical workers is to spend tons of money of military flyovers — rather than, say, PPE — but another one takes place tomorrow (Thursday, May 14).
The Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing will fly C-130s over a Connecticut hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Norwalk Hospital is on the flight path, at approximately 11:37 a.m.
Also on the list: Greenwich Hospital (11:34), Silver Hill (11:39), Bridgeport Hospital (11:43) and Yale New Haven (11:48).
Every year, MoCA Westport sponsors a student art exhibit. It’s always a remarkable show — and wonderful reminder that our arts future is alive and well.
The museum is closed indefinitely. But this year’s show is online — andn as inspiring as ever. Over 60 students from throughout the region submitted paintings, photographs, collages and ceramics. Many address these uncertain times.
Among the artists represented: Staples High School’s Alexandra Lam, Anne Machata and Caroline Rourke, and Greens Farms Academy’s Ryan Boyle and Lulu Wu.
“Quarantined All Year Round” (Emma Costa Norwalk High School), part of the MOCA High School Student Art Exhibition.
Several Staples High School sports teams have provided meals to front line personnel. The latest is the boys hockey squad.
Parents and players partnered with Staples culinary instructor Alison Milwe Grace — who also owns AMG Catering — to have 50 meals delivered to Norwalk Hospital workers.
Each player sent a personal note; the team added a bigger one, thanking the healthcare workers for all they’re doing.
PS: Several players eat gluten-free diets, so they made sure half the meals they donated were gluten-free too.
PPS: Following up on a previous “06880” story: In 11 days, Staples’ girls track team raised over $7,000 (and ran over 190 miles) for the Stamford Hospital. The boys swim team provided sandwiches for Norwalk Hospital too. And girls golf has been involved with Homes With Hope.
Buried deep in Westport’s RTM Rules of Procedure is this: the “first right-hand seat of the left-hand section as you face the Moderator” should be left empty. It’s a memorial to Maclear Jacoby, one of the original members, and to all deceased RTM members.
Now comes word that Maclear Jacob Jr. died last month, after contracting the coronavirus. He was 93, and had quite a life. After growing up in Westport he spent 65 years at Landon — the elite, all-boys prep school in Bethesda, Maryland.
He served in the Navy in World War II, graduated from Trinity College, joined the Air Force and fought for a year in Korea, and became a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve. But, the Washington Post says:
In 1955 Jacoby turned his attention to educating children….
During his 65-year career — the longest in Landon’s history — Jacoby served many roles. In addition to math teacher, he was head of Landon’s middle school. As varsity tennis coach, he led the squad to 42 Interstate Athletic Conference titles and produced more than 20 individual championships and team titles.
Even after he retired, Jacoby stayed close to campus, attending nearly every tennis match and keeping stats at football and basketball games.
(Hat tip: Charlie and Sandie Cole)
And finally … yesterday marked 2 months from the day Westport schools closed. Suddenly, things got real.
We had no idea how we would adapt. Could we last a couple of weeks at home? A month without a haircut or styling? How about 2 months of no sports or concerts?
Well, we’ve done it. There may be light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps that’s just the light of a big freight train coming at us.
Either way, we know we’ve been able to do things we hadn’t thought possible. It hasn’t been easy. But now we can all say — like Michael in “A Chorus Line” — “I can do that!”
The coronavirus has shattered our lives. Millions of Americans have lost steady jobs. Federal and state governments are scrambling to help.
Aid is less certain for the millions more who relied on gig work. Uber drivers, handymen, artists– all have been caught in an economic limbo almost as scary as the disease itself.
Drew Angus is one of those gig workers. The 2007 Staples High School graduate is a musician whose performing, recording and teaching offered him steady, if sometimes unpredictable, sources of income.
All of that changed, in an instant. Drew writes:
It’s week 6 in quarantine for most people in Connecticut. For me, quarantine started earlier. I received an email on March 1 from my largest client of: “All live music is cancelled through May 30. Sorry!”
Okay, I thought. We’ll work this out; just a bump in the road. Maybe I’ll move to Nashville, and see what it’s like down there.
A tornado struck the city the next morning. You can’t make this stuff up.
The other day, I received another email from the same client. All live music is now canceled through August. It doesn’t come as a surprise this time. But it still stings.
I’m a full time musician. We exist. Most of us are not famous. Many support families. We’re non-traditional, or gig, workers.
Wikipedia says gig workers are “independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers, and temporary workers.” We provide contracted services for a wide variety of clients, short and long term.
We’re musicians, graphic designers, industrial designers, doctors nurses and many more. A recent McKinsey study found that 25 to 30% of the US workforce falls into this category.
The way we’re taxed and paid is generally different from traditional W-2 workers with long-term employee-employer relationships.
One key difference: We don’t pay into unemployment. It’s not an option for us. (We do pay a self-employment tax of 15.3%, based on our gross income after business expenses. That goes to Social Security (12.4%) and Medicare (2.9%).
Drew Angus rocks.
The CARES Act came as a huge relief. For the first time, gig workers had access to unemployment, plus an additional $600 per week. That brought weekly relief into the $800 to $1000 a week range.
The bill offers self-employed individuals a $10,000 forgivable advance on an Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan that does not need to be paid back, even if the borrower does not qualify for an SBA loan.
I applied. Nothing. Not even a denial.
Additionally, the bill offers self-employed individuals a Payroll Protection Program loan through lenders like Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
As a sole proprietor I am essentially an employee of my own business. That qualifies me, so I tried to apply through Bank of America.
However, BOA does not accept applications from self-employed individuals without a business checking account opened prior to February 15, 2020. Most self-employed workers I know do not have a business checking account. Neither do I.
I heard that Fairfield County Bank was processing loans much more easily. However, there has been conflicting information about the effect these loans will have on unemployment funds for the self-employed. Out of fear, I did not apply.
Drew Angus in Staples High School, with fellow musicians Nick Yost and Josh King.
Early on in quarantine, I was on a Fidelity Equity webinar for entertainment industry professionals. They walked us through the entire loan process, and told us to set up a meeting if we wanted to learn more and apply for the loans.
I did. They said that based on my numbers, I could get a 100% forgivable PPP loan for $300,000, and a $10,000 advance on the EIDL disaster loan — but I had to pay $2,500 up front so they could set up the paperwork for me.
To get these numbers, the Fidelity guy had me add up all of my own adjusted gross income and payroll, which he said should include 1099 contract labor.
He misled me. 1099 labor does not qualify for PPP, and there are strict measures in place for forgiving both loans, as specified in the CARES Act. He was shooting for the stars.
Last year I paid 44 musician contractors, and filed 1099s for 23 of those I paid over $500. Some of my guys rely on me for a large chunk of their income. My original thought was to get the PPP and/or EIDL to help them out first.
Which brings me to unemployment. It’s a total nightmare.
On March 27 I filed my Connecticut Department of Labor claim online. First I consulted its website. There were questions like “How many employers have you worked for in the last 18 months?” and “Name of Most Recent Employer (As Per Pay Stub)” and “Please provide the gross wages you earned during the week of XX through XX.”
That’s not the way the music business operates.
The department definitely works well for some people. Their website says they’ve processed 250,000 of the 370,000 claim applications recently received, and provided over $100 million in benefits.
On April 15, after weeks of reading daily COVID update emails from Senator Murphy and Congressman Himes, yet seeing zero information regarding self- employed unnemployment funds, I called Himes’ office.
A staffer named Joseph called me 2 hours later. He that Connecticut was not responsible for unemployment funds for self-employed folks. We have to wait until the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system from the federal government is up and running on April 30 to file a claim.
On April 16 I got a letter from the Department of Labor. They have no wage records on file for the 2019 pay period, and need more information. I tried calling the number on the form. No one answered.
I did receive an email from the DOL. It said I was approved for the “Temporary Layoff/Temporary Shutdown Program,” and did not need to do anything else at that time. I don’t need to file a weekly form; money would apparently just show up. I never saw the money for that week.
On April 24 I got another DOL letter. They found my wages information for Q4 2018 through Q3 2019: a whopping $41.79. They were royalty checks from an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in 2017 (with fellow Westporter Nile Rogers).
Oh, yeah: I was denied benefits, for “insufficient wage credits.”
All l can do is wait and see. Meanwhile, rent is still due on May 1.
The Westport Library is closed (though it’s online presence is more active than ever). But its MakerSpace is wide open — and doing its part to make and supply PPE to medical personnel across Connecticut.
Westport has partnered with other spaces in the region — Fairfield County Makers Guild in Norwalk; Make Haven in New Haven; Danbury Hacker Space — to assemble face shields. Ours is the only maker space affiliated with a library.
Led by Mike Altis, the MakerSpace has already 3D-printed more than 200 pieces of PPE, such as plastic headbands. After printing, parts are dropped off for final assembly at partnering maker spaces.
Mike prints a headband every 4 hours on the library’s two best 3D printers.
Due to a shortage and slow shipping of supplies, and the need for strict distancing guidelines (only one person in the space at a time), the Westport Library has not produced completed face masks itself.
Fortunately, Mike just received materials. Soon, he and his helpers will assemble completed face shields in their own space.
MakerSpace masks at the library.
Rothbard Ale + Larder posted on Facebook yesterday: “Rothbard will be closing permanently, but we hope this is not goodbye.
“Walrus Alley will be taking its place, with American southern-inspired flavors and dishes you are sure to enjoy. Stay tuned for the occasional Rothbard pop-up, especially in October.
“We hope to see you again.”
Trader Joe’s is closed again today. It is believed another employee contracted the coronavirus.
Like many musicians, 2007 Staples High School grad Drew Angus has been hit hard by the coronavirus.
All gigs through the end of May were canceled. So too have many through August. As a “non-traditional” worker, he’s had a tough time accessing federal and state unemployment benefits.
How’s he coping?
Creatively. After a successful Zoom happy hour for friends last week, he launched “Zoom Pop-Ins.” You can book Drew for a song (or a few) for online birthday parties, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, business meetings, happy hours, whatever. They work especially well as surprises. Click here for more info
Drew also offers drive-by concerts for anyone stuck at home in a 15-mile radius of Westport. He pulls into your driveway, stays safely away, opens his mobile sound system, and plays.
And he teaches virtual guitar and voice lessons. (“Pick up a new quarantine skill!” he suggests.) Email DrewAngusMusic@gmail.com for concerts and lessons; click here for his website.
Finally, click here for his new single, Mr. Gemini — an introspective rock tune about understanding yourself. (If you buy it on Bandcamp, 85% goes directly to Drew.)
Here’s the stop-motion video. He made it with his marketing manager, Weston High graduate Shari Goldenberg. While strictly socially distancing, of course!
Robert Jacobs has found a new way to self-isolate: soaring solo in a sailplane.
Alone in the sky 8,000 feet above the earth — with no other aircraft around — he feels safe and joyful. The other day, he shot this video:
A reader writes: “My wife and I are looking more closely at our 2020 charitable giving. This is a year for priorities. We want to give where it will have the most immediate and needed benefit, starting with our general community and moving outwards from there.
“For us, food, health, and shelter will come first. Most everything else is on hold. That includes many other very worthy areas.”
How about it, readers. What are your priorities, and why? There are no wrong answers, just opinions. Click “Comments” below.
Spotco — Tommy Greenwald’s marketing, advertising and branding agency — is renowned for its work with Broadway shows.
But with the Great White Way dark, what can they do? Well, how about an uplifting, inspiring video starring Lin-Manuel Miranda?
In just 60 seconds, he manages to let everyone know that after this “intermission,” Broadway will be back with a great 2nd act; offer a way to help people in need, and also provide info on options to assist those in the industry. Take a peek:
Seen on the internet, and worth repeating: “You know all those small businesses you always ask to help out for your silent auction, program book or other fundraiser? Well, it’s time to repay the favor.”
And finally … thanks, Kelly Clarkson, for your words of wisdom!
If you saw “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend, you (hopefully) roared at Melissa McCarthy’s spot-on skewering of Sean Spicer. (“I know they’re not ‘holocaust centers.’ I clearly meant to say ‘concentration clubs.'”)
In fact, even better: The 2007 Staples High School graduate — a talented musician and “American Idol” golden ticket winner — was on stage.
Let him tell the story:
I got a call from my voice coach at 2:09 last Thursday afternoon. He asked, “are you in town right now? SNL gig. They need 2 white guys who can sing. Giving your phone number to them right now.”
Two minutes later the drummer from the band Shawn called, and asked how quickly I could get to 30 Rock.
I got there fast. How often does an opportunity like this come around?!
At guest check in they said, “Oh, Mr. Angus, right this way!” I went up the elevator, down the hall and through the doors to the Studio 8H set. I was living a childhood dream.
Immediately I saw the iconic Grand Central Station facade/bandstand behind all the hanging lights, moving scenery pieces, cameras, cables and crew.
They put me right on the scene. My friend Ian, who also got called, taught me the song we were to sing. (We were hired to reinforce the melody with the cast.)
A kid named Harry introduced himself. I looked at the script, and realized he was Harry Styles.
Jimmy Fallon sat in front of me. Bobby Moynihan stood next to me. It seemed unreal. I’d gone from Head Mouse in “The Wiz” to Union soldier on SNL.
We rehearsed the sketch 5 or 6 times, then got sent to wardrobe. We were measured up, and on our way in an hour and a half.
Later that night, I was playing the Bon Jovi after-party with my band that’s on tour supporting my new record “Hold onto Something” (available on Spotify and iTunes!).
Shawn called again, asking if I could come in at 8:30 the next night to do another thing for the opening monologue. I canceled my Friday gig
Of course, there’s another Westport connection.
I showed up Friday night to sing background vocals in the booth on Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” during the opening monologue. My friend Ian got the same call, along with a guy named Frank Simms.
Frank has done SNL hundreds of times. He knows the ropes, and everyone knows him. He was our shepherd for the night.
Frank and his brother sang the backing vocals on the original “Let’s Dance” record, produced by Nile Rogers — who has lived in Westport for years.
Frank said he, his wife and daughter lived for many years as caretakers of the Westport Woman’s Club house on Imperial Avenue.
Saturday was long. Call time was 11:30 a.m. Rumors of Nile Rogers playing on the opening monologue came true when he showed up in the afternoon.
We went through rehearsals, they cut sketches, we got wardrobe. Jimmy told me to break a leg as we passed in the hallway.
The food was amazing. The crew was awesome.
At 8 p.m. we did dress rehearsal with a test audience. The producers then met for final changes.
We went live at 11:30 across the country — for the very first time in SNL history — with Jimmy Fallon as host.
Drew Angus (right), on “Saturday Night Live.”
The energy was truly electric. I think the cast really has as much fun as it looks like they do.
At some point between the dress and live shows, Frank took us up to Nile’s dressing room. We talked about Sally’s Place, Trader Joe’s, Achorn Pharmacy, Bobby Q’s, Bedford Square, Arnie’s Place, and how all the mom and pop shops are gone from Main Street.
Then they called Nile down to the stage and we left.
It was insane. I still have no words. Tina Fey smiled at me in the hall.
It will be hard to top that weekend.
Thanks, Drew, for that great inside look into SNL. But I disagree with your last sentence.
One day soon, you’ll be a featured artist — or guest host!
Meanwhile, click below for the full video of Drew’s “SNL” appearance:
Jake Yarmoff is a singer/songwriter. So it’s not surprising that he cites Alice Lipson as a major influence. At Staples High School — from which he graduated in 2010 — the choral teacher helped him hone his smooth sound.
But he also was mentored by English instructor Julia McNamee. “She woke me up my last 2 years there, ” Yarmoff — who now goes by the easier-to-remember name Jake Bernard — says. “She taught me to be harder on myself, and made me the writer I am.”
Even math teacher Lenny Klein made an impact. “His policy of total honesty and great sense of humor were so important,” Bernard says. “He’s all about taking your work seriously — but not yourself.”
With that background, it’s not too surprising that at Penn State the aspiring entertainer majored in … finance. And minored in sociology.
He interned with Vanguard after junior year, then joined the investment firm full-time in financial sales at its Philadelphia headquarters. Bernard calls Vanguard “a great company, and a fantastic experience.” But he left 8 months ago.
“I knew I had somewhere else to be,” he says simply.
That “somewhere else” was metaphorical — not physical. He remained in Philly, and dedicated himself to his musical craft.
“My goal in my career is to have a positive impact — to inspire and give ‘wow’ moments, like other musicians have for me,” Bernard says.
“I want to make people smile, laugh and be their full selves. Ever since I was little, in every interaction with people — even outside of music — that’s been my aim.”
So Bernard wrote songs. He played. And he’s been in the studio, recording a series of singles he’ll release over the coming months.
Right now, “City of Love” is getting a lot of attention. And love.
It’s a 2-way street. Bernard has come to appreciate Philadelphia — a place that, growing up in Westport, he never really thought of — for its small-town-in-a-big-city vibe.
It took several months to get the tune right. But it — and a music video that shows Bernard singing and playing in some of Philadelphia’s most iconic spots (yes, of course including the “Rocky” steps!) — is a catchy, compelling love song to his adopted city.
Bernard knows that — musically speaking — the City of (Brotherly) Love is not in the same league as New York, Los Angeles, Nashville or Austin. It does have a lively hip hop, rap and jazz scene.
But the “beach pop” genre that Bernard specializes in (think Jason Mraz, and Fairfield’s own John Mayer) is wide open. He hopes to fill it.
Jake Bernard, in the city he loves.
Yet he retains his Westport roots. He recently performed at Toquet Hall with Alan Southworth — a friend since orchestra at Coleytown Elementary School — and Dustin Lowman, another Staples grad on the fast musical track. Bernard has also played alongside Staples alum Drew Angus.
Jake Yarmoff loves Westport. Jake Bernard loves Philadelphia.
From Mary Ann Hall’s Music for Children, through musicals at Coleytown, Bedford and Staples (Class of 2007), to the bands he’s played in and the record label he ran at Hartwick College, Drew has immersed himself in sound.
But after college, he says, “I lost my musical focus.” He spent a year managing a YouTube viral artist. Ultimately, he realized, he wanted to be on stage — not behind the scenes.
In the past 2 years he’s played over 150 gigs. Drew does it all: concerts, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs. In November he appeared at the FTC Warehouse (with, among others, Anders Osborne).
Drew also made the Top 10 of Boston’s “Community Auditions” TV show — a 4-decade-old forerunner of “American Idol.”
Speaking of which…
Last summer, Drew was invited to an “American Idol” audition in Philadelphia. He roared through 3 rounds of auditions — then was asked to return, to perform in front of real-live judges.
It was another all-day affair. But singing in front of Harry, JLo and Keith was amazing.
Drew’s 1st song was “I’m Ready.” Harry said he’s buddies with singer/ songwriter Anders Osborne.
The judges liked Drew’s voice. JLo asked for another tune. He quickly tuned his guitar out of double drop D — without a tuner. Impressed, Harry said, “You’ve got good ears, man!”
Drew played the 1st 2 verses of “Dock of the Bay.” Keith stopped him, and asked why he chose the song. JLo glared at Keith and said, “’cause he can sing!”
Drew got 3 “yeses,” and walked out — with a golden ticket to Hollywood!
Drew Angus with his parents — and his golden ticket.
“Being validated by 3 industry veterans and the producers was incredible,” Drew says.
“Idol” did not air Drew’s audition last week, when Philly was up. But he saw himself on TV, with his golden ticket.
Talk about a great screen shot!
“Reality TV is not just what you see on TV,” he notes. “There are a lot of amazing people who never get air time. Hopefully, you’ll see me in Hollywood next week!”
Winning “Idol” would be fantastic, Drew says. For now though, he’s taking it one performance at a time.
Tune in Wednesdays and Thursdays (Fox, 8 p.m.) to follow his journey.
(Drew Angus’ version of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” comes out next week on iTunes and Spotify. He’s donating proceeds from the sale and streaming of the track to the charity Little Kids Rock, which provides instruments and music education to underserved children across the country. Drew performs on February 2 at the Bitter End, and March 2 at Rockwood Music Hall.)
The 1999 Staples graduate — who also played Curly Sue in the movie of the same name, and performed on Broadway in “Footloose” and “A Chorus Line” — gave birth to her 2nd child, talked openly about her sobriety, and has just released her 1st solo album in 6 years.
After many years recording and performing with her band The Canyons, she felt the need to explore musically on her own. She spent time in Nashville writing, and — with friend and fellow Staples grad Drew McKeon — went into the studio. He co-wrote, co-produced and played on the album, called “Who We Are.”
“We basically sat in her kitchen in California with a guitar and a laptop and started writing a song,” he says, recalling the project’s genesis. “Twenty minutes later we had a demo for a tune.”
They went out and got all-star musicians, veterans of bands for Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Eric Clapton.
In a People magazine story written by yet another Staples grad — Jennifer Garcia — Porter describes her work as a recording artist, mother of 2 (ages 2 1/2 and 6 months), and blogger (“The Lil’ Mamas” is a no-holds-barred, tell-all, not-your- grandmother’s look at motherhood).
“Motherhood always comes first,” she says. “But I knew I wasn’t going to be a good mother if I didn’t continue to do what I love! Music is a part of me and I had to express myself, especially now that I’m a mom. That inspired a lot of the album. My own growing up and watching my children do the same.”
That’s happening in California now. But you can’t take the Westport out of Curly Sue Alison Porter.
Drew Angus — a 2007 Staples grad, who studied music production at Hartwick College and now runs his own artists’ management firm — just returned from South by Southwest.
If you’re from the Woodstock generation — or the silent film one –and don’t know about “SXSW”: It’s 2 weeks of music, film and interactive mayhem in downtown Austin, Texas. The festival features great new films, bands, technology, phone apps, surprise appearances by famous stars, and “a bearded lady-man with a well groomed mustache.”
That’s the 1st part of Drew’s report. Here’s the rest:
It’s a sleep-depriving binge on music, BBQ and Tex-Mex, with a side of networking. There’s a little something for everyone.
The official band schedule could be overwhelming — and that doesn’t include the vast number of unofficial shows and parties. My highlights included Justin Timberlake’s surprise show with ?uestlove, Jim James at Willie Nelson’s ranch, partying at Willie Nelson’s Ranch, Baauer, Dave Grohl demonstrating his original multi-track recording setup using 2 tape decks, an interview with George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, wandering into a Frank Turner show at 1:30 a.m. where most of the audience was singing along (some hanging off the fence, many drenched in beer), and discovering the band Dawes.
I missed a lot too, like Prince, The Flaming Lips, Smashing Pumpkins, and more, but I’m not sad… well, maybe a little bitter about Prince. Life goes on.
I’ve attended SXSW since 2005. It’s gotten bigger every year.
This year I was supposed to perform. However, the only gig I ended up playing was at 30,000 feet on Southwest Airlines (the most captive audience I’ve ever had).
My gig on the ground got canceled because the venue shut down midweek (not terribly uncommon). This year Third Eye Blind were 2 songs into their set when the cops stopped it (due to overwhelming crowd response from fans on the street).
Westport often has a presence at SXSW, whether it’s bands, blogs or small companies.
Last year, Will Richardson (Staples ‘07) made a splash with his band American Royalty playing multiple shows a day (including a key slot at the Virgin Mobile House.
Westport’s April Kry performed at South By Southwest… (Kirk Stauffer Photography)
This year, Westport was there in force. Staples ’07 graduates April Kry and Harry Rodrigues (or, as the world knows him, Baauer) were both in town. I caught April at her ZodLounge showcase at Bourbon Girl. For a petite woman, she’s got one hell of a voice and a band to groove hard. She took command of the stage, telling stories through catchy songs and soaring melodies.
Afterwards we chatted. We agreed that while performing at “South By” is great, there’s just so much noise (bands) that it’s more about the networking than the performing.
Baauer, on the other hand headlined quite a few shows. He was a big buzz artist this year. I caught his show at La Zona Rosa, the venue Prince made a surprise appearance at Saturday night (with 7 encores).
Electronic music isn’t quite my jam, but Harry throws down. He came on at 1:10 a.m. and played a 45-minute set straight — no stops between songs. That’s impressive.
The crowd’s dance moves were reminiscent of those during the raves Harry and friends threw while at Staples: intense head and body bobbing, hands thrown up waving to the beat, and some jumping.
…and so did Westport’s Harry Rodrigues, known the world over as Baauer. (Look closely; that’s him.)
Harry’s excitement and intensity on stage behind a wall of LEDs with rapidly changing shapes and patterns, combined with a killer light show and the deepest, loudest sound system of SXSW, transcended reality. The 3 light guys were all working just as hard as Harry. The light show and music really go hand in hand.
He did of course spin the “Harlem Shake” track.
I caught up with Harry after his gig. He’s still Harry.
When I asked how the whole “Harlem Shake” thing happened, his smile grew. He said simply, “I have no idea. I don’t f—ing know.”
Then — in a great Westport moment — he was ushered off to the illmore party. It was run by another Staples grad: Mike Bowen.
It was a successful week, full of great music, handshakes, friends, and partying like a rockstar. Now it’s time to get back to reality. I have a lot of work to catch up on — and new leads to connect with.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thanks!)